Goal setting: How to become a better surfer, even if you don’t live close to the beach

92% of new year’s resolutions fail, but there is a simple way to actually still make the odds work for you

Just 8% of people achieve their new year’s resolutions (goal setting) according to a recent Forbes article. Approximately 80% of resolutions fail by the second week of February, so the odds are against you.

This article is here to provide practical advice on how to set yourself up right from the start to achieve your next surfing goal. Don’t be the surfer who doesn’t get better in 2018.   

Researchers have looked at success rate of resolutions: the first two weeks usually go well, but by February, people are backsliding and by the following December, most people are back where they started, often even further behind.

There are several reasons why most people fail:

  • They don’t make resolution’s specific: e.g. ‘I’m going to become a better surfer’ vs “I will learn how to do cutbacks in 3 months”
  • They do not know how to get to the specific goal, just have a vague idea what they want (“I’m going to be a pro”, “I want to get rich” vs “I will learn how to do cutbacks by learning the skill and building the strength and mobility that is needed for it”)
  • Not building a habit around the goal, so practicing for your goal becomes embedded in your daily/weekly life. (breaking things down into small pieces that are actually fun and can be done in your daily life – e.g. I get my students to practice the basic movements at home, not doing more than 30 minutes per session etc.)

How to actually do goal setting in a way that you are bound to reach them

goal setting

Luckily there is a simple framework to set you up for success, called DiSSS.

DiSSS is a framework for mastering any skill, popularised by Tim Ferriss’ of “4-hour workweek fame.

You can just follow these steps to learn anything in surfing (or life):

1. D for Deconstruction. What is the minimum useful unit of knowledge? For a foreign language, it would be a word. For learning to surf, these are the basic movements that you do for paddling, pop up and For learning a special move, e.g. the cutback, it would be the broken down steps of movements one need to do to perform a cutback. For surf turns, this movement is what starts the turn every time:

2. S for Selection. What 20% of those minimum units will lead to 80% of your desired outcomes?

For bottom turns, this would be mastering the basic movement sequence + making sure you have the muscular strength and flexibility to perform it.

3. S for Sequencing.What’s the most effective order for learning these units?

This is an often overlooked, but very important part of learning (to surf). You spend 80% of your time in the water paddling, yet when I tell a beginner (or even an intermediate surfer) that let’s work on your paddling for a few weeks, 8 out of 10 students drop out.

So sequencing the work into pieces that give you a sense of achievement and make you come back for more is important (e.g. I blend foundation work for paddling with fun drills that help you to improve your turns quickly right from the start).

The order of practice also matters highly: I know you want to learn how to do a proper cutback, but let’s make sure you actually know how to execute a turn with a perfect form first etc.

4. S for Stakes. What psychological and social mechanisms can you set up for discipline and motivation?

As mentioned in the beginning, just 8% reach their new year’s resolutions.

There are three things you can do to significantly increase your chances:

  1. Create your New Year’s Surf Resolutions here with a simple form, so I can check in with you regarding your progress and keep nudging you when you are about to fail your habit.
  2. Announce it publicly to friends and family what you set out to do. (they will keep asking how things are going and it can be embarrassing to admit you are not making progress)
  3. Optional: put a cash stake on it.

Did you know that you can use a service to pledge money to a charity or cause that you really don’t like in case you fail your commitment? (e.g. you can use stickk.com to pick your “anti-charity”, like the sports team you really dislike, or the “George W. Bush Presidential Museum” etc.) This will keep you going when you are about to give up…

Choose an amount that is painful to lose. If you’re serious, at least 1% of your annual pre-tax income is a good starting point. This means:

$50,000 → wager $500 or more.

$75,000 → $750 or more.

$100,000 → $1,000 or more etc.

You can also do it without cash, but most people take it a lot more seriously, if there is money on the line. The good news: if you don’t perform, most of the charitable donations are tax deductible (but if give up, you still gave money to something you really don’t support..).

Take the first step now

Use this form to define what do you want to improve in your surfing in 2018. I will email your goal setting resolutions back and will give you small next steps to follow up on it.

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